Library Resources

About Rare Books

Care and Value of Old Books

Concise answers to many questions about old, rare, and antiquarian books can be found at "Your Old Books," produced under the auspices of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries. The Newberry Library also provides useful guidance on how to "Be Your Book's Best Friend."

Condition, relative rarity, age, ownership history or association, demand, and bibliographic details all affect market value; and appraisal of antiquarian books can be more an art than a science. We in the Department of Special Collections are not permitted to appraise books or suggest their market value. Some readily available sources list recent asking or selling prices for some copies of antiquarian titles, but buyers and sellers need always to recognize that an asking price concerns a given copy of a given title (and that an asking price is not always realized). Reputable and well-informed book dealers, especially those who belong to recognized professional associations (such as the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America) and who subscribe to a stringent code of ethics, can generally offer practical guidance about the title you own or the title you seek.

Donating Books to a Charitable Organization

Should you wish to donate a book or books to a charitable or non-profit organization such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, the Friends of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries (contact the Friends at 608-265-2505) or the University of Wisconsin Foundation, you should consult your own tax advisor about any tax implications of your decision. The Department of Special Collections is prohibited by university policy and the Tax Reform Act of 1984 from participating in the direct appraisal of gifts.

Sources for Appraisal Information

With these caveats in mind, such published sources as Bookman's price index, American book prices current, Annual register of book values: Modern first editions (and other specialized volumes), International rare book prices, and Mandeville's used book price guide may prove useful. All are available in the Department's reference collection. The glossaries in John Carter's ABC for book collectors and Marvin Mondlin's Appraisals: A guide for bookmen [sic] may also be helpful.

An electronic version of American book prices current -- ABPC on CD-ROM -- is now available in the Special Collections reference collection. This is an easily searched database version representing auction sales of books, manuscripts, and autographs, as reported by American book prices current from September 1975 through at least 2004.

Additional possibilities for searching the catalogs of antiquarian book dealers (and used-book dealers) are now available through the Internet. Such services as Abebooks and AddALL make possible book price comparisons. For international prices, you might try UKBookWorld, which searches British booksellers, or the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Please note: Inclusion of sources in these lists does not imply endorsement or warrant by the University of Wisconsin-Madison of their publications, information, services, or accuracy.